The C-8 (Perfluorooctanoic Acid) Litigation Against DuPont, part 1

The first plaintiff has begun her trial against E.I. Du Pont De Nemours & Company (DuPont), for alleged harm from environmental exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid or its salts (PFOA). Ms. Carla Bartlett is claiming that she developed kidney cancer as a result of drinking water allegedly contaminated with PFOA by DuPont. Nicole Hong, “Chemical-Discharge Case Against DuPont Goes to Trial: Outcome could affect thousands of claims filed by other U.S. residents,” Wall St. J. (Sept. 13, 2015). The case is pending before Chief Judge Edmund A. Sargus, Jr., in the Southern District of Ohio.

PFOA is not classified as a carcinogen in the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In 2005, the EPA Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics submitted a “Draft Risk Assessment of the Potential Human Health Effects Associated With Exposure to Perfluorooctanoic Acid and Its Salts (PFOA),” which is available at the EPA’s website. The draft report, which is based upon some epidemiology and mostly animal toxicology studies, stated that there was “suggestive evidence of carcinogenicity, but not sufficient to assess human carcinogenic potential.”

In 2013, The Health Council of the Netherlands evaluated the PFOA cancer issue, and found the data unsupportive of a causal conclusions. The Health Council of the Netherlands, “Perfluorooctanoic acid and its salts: Evaluation of the carcinogenicity and genotoxicity” (2013) (“The Committee is of the opinion that the available data on perfluorooctanoic acid and its salts are insufficient to evaluate the carcinogenic properties (category 3)”).

Last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) through its International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reviewed the evidence on the alleged carcinogenicity of PFOA. The IARC, which has fostered much inflation with respect to carcinogenicity evaluations, classified as PFOA as only possibly carcinogenic. See News, “Carcinogenicity of perfluorooctanoic acid, tetrafl uoroethylene, dichloromethane, 1,2-dichloropropane, and 1,3-propane sultone,” 15 The Lancet Oncology 924 (2014).

Most independent reviews also find the animal and epidemiologic unsupportive of a causal conclusion between PFOA and any human cancer. See, e.g., Thorsten Stahl, Daniela Mattern, and Hubertus Brunn, “Toxicology of perfluorinated compounds,” 23 Environmental Sciences Europe 38 (2011).

So you might wonder how DuPont lost its Rule 702 challenges in such a case, which it surely did. In re E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. C-8 Pers. Injury Litig., Civil Action 2:13-md-2433, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 98788 (S.D. Ohio July 21, 2015). That is a story for another day.

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